Out-Law News 3 min. read

Lyons' Housing Commission publishes recommendations for accelerated delivery of new homes

The Lyons' Housing Commission published a report (180-page / 2.5 MB PDF) yesterday, outlining its recommendations for how the Labour Party could meet a pledge to build 200,000 homes per year by 2020, should it be returned to power in next year's UK General Election.

The report was immediately endorsed by Labour leader Ed Miliband, who said the recommended policies would help address "a systematic failure to build the homes our country needs" and ensure that local communities benefited from development in their area.

Miliband said the Labour Party would adopt a policy requiring local authorities without local plans in place to bring a plan forward for examination by the Planning Inspectorate by December 2016. The report recommended that, where this deadline was not met, the government should have the power to direct the Planning Inspectorate to ensure that a plan was put in place.

The Labour Party also endorsed a policy that would require new housing in certain areas to be marketed to local first time buyers before outside buyers were permitted to bid.

"Too often the trickle of new developments that get completed are snapped up before people from the area can benefit," said Miliband. "We will ... make sure that communities get the benefit from new home development by guaranteeing that, where communities take the lead in bringing forward additional developments, a significant proportion of homes on those sites cannot be bought by anyone before first-time buyers from the area have been given the chance."

The report recommended the introduction of powers for local authorities to designate Housing Growth Areas, in which landowners would be called upon to sell their land and partnerships would be established to bring forward serviced plots for rapid development. Locally-led New Homes Corporations should be created to bring together public and private expertise to deliver "an ambitious programme of [housing] development", the report said, and Garden City Development Corporations should follow updated government guidance to bring forward proposals for new garden cities.

A number of 'use it or lose it' measures were proposed, to ensure that land earmarked for housing development is developed in good time. The report recommended that the life of planning permissions be reduced to two years, that higher fees apply to their renewal and that more substantive work be required in order for development to be deemed to have "commenced" under a permission.

Compulsory purchase powers should be strengthened to allow councils to acquire land prioritised for development, the report said, and councils should be able to levy a tax on deliverable land that was voluntarily allocated in a plan if development is not commenced within five years.

The Commission outlined several measures aimed at encouraging better co-operation between neighbouring local authorities in areas with a shared housing market. Such authorities should be able to prepare a joint strategic housing market plan (SHMP), which would have to be taken into account in individual local plans, the report recommended. When working together, authorities would be encouraged to pool resources under the recommendations, and where co-operation was not forthcoming, the government should have the power to require authorities to produce a SHMP, or instruct the Planning Inspectorate to complete one for the area, it said.

Other recommendations in the report included: the strengthening of guidance for the preparation of strategic housing market assessments; financial support for small builders; deemed discharge of planning conditions that are not signed off by councils within new time limits; and reduced application requirements for sites of less than ten units. The Commission also recommended that the National Planning Policy Framework be updated to introduce of a 'brownfield first' policy for development and to revise the definition of affordable housing, to mean housing that "meet[s] the needs of eligible households at a cost low enough for them to afford".

Liz Peace, chief executive of house builders trade body the British Property Federation, welcomed the proposals: “We were told that the Lyons Review would be meaty, and it has certainly proved to be so.  The sensible review is extremely comprehensive and pinpoints exactly where problems in the planning system are and comes up with thoughtful solutions. While some proposals, for example those surrounding 'use it or lose it', may be difficult to implement, on the whole the review shows a clear understanding of the major problems of the planning system, and how these impact on development in the UK.  It would be fantastic to see other political parties commit to such a thorough and all-encompassing review like this one.’’

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